The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Cashmere Wrap: Paul Powers Past Pospisil; Opelka Outsmarts Kyrgios in First Night Session of National Bank Open

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August 10, 2021
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By Max Gao

Under the lights of the Aviva Centre, American qualifier Tommy Paul came from a set down and staved off a formidable late charge from Canadian wild card Vasek Pospisil to advance to the second round with a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 victory. With three wins in as many days already under his belt, Paul will face No. 10 seed Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the last 16 on Wednesday.

In his 10th main-draw appearance at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, Pospisil — who made the semi-finals of this event in 2013 — recovered from an early break down in the opening set, playing some inspired, first-strike tennis to eke out the set in a tiebreak. But as Pospisil began to struggle in the humid conditions, Paul responded in emphatic fashion, putting the Canadian on the defensive in most of the baseline exchanges to force a final set. With the match leveled at a-set-apiece, both men traded holds until the eighth game of decider, when Paul, sensing a little bit of weariness from Pospisil, bided his time and broke for a 5-3 lead. In the ensuing game, Paul needed four match points — and even saved a break point — before he was able to successfully serve out the match, which lasted two hours and 21 minutes.

“I tried to stay quiet, honestly, keep to myself,” Paul told Sportsnet’s Arash Madani in his on-court interview, in response to a question about holding his nerve throughout the match. “I think he was kind of cramping up. [It was a] good effort by him to continue all the way through the match … I just had a lot of opportunities.”

Joining Paul in the second round is his compatriot Reilly Opelka, who fired 22 aces and won 88 percent (45/51) of his first-serve points en route to securing a late-night and hard-fought 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Nick Kyrgios. The big-serving American, who is making his debut this week in Toronto, will now meet No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the third round.

Having fallen at the opening hurdle in his last two appearances at this event, Kyrgios was looking to kickstart his North American hardcourt swing with a solid run in Toronto. The entertaining Australian, who didn’t face a single break point in the opening frame, earned a break midway through the set that would ultimately help him move within a set of the second round.

But as the match progressed, Opelka began to look more and more comfortable on his own serve, routinely serving above 200 kph and not facing a single break point for the rest of the match. The American took advantage of a short mental lapse from his Australian counterpart in the second-set tiebreak to level the match, and his persistence was rewarded with an early break in the final set. On the strength of his own serve and some impressive defensive skills, Opelka was able to close out the match in an hour and 57 minutes as the clock approached midnight in Toronto.

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